Myths about Stoicism, what it’s really about, and how it has helped my relationship

Women are quite the emotional goddesses. Okay, maybe not all women would agree that we’re all emotional. But for the most part, being emotional seems innate to us.

When I was 19, I had my first boyfriend. It lasted for 6 months. When I was 20, I had my second boyfriend. Yes, I did not waste time because I know I started late (lol). But here’s the catch: my second romantic relationship has lasted until now and it has been almost a decade since we started things off.

My current boyfriend and I basically spent most of our 20s together. As it is with long term relationships, you get to know each other quite well and the familiarity levels scale up to more than we could handle sometimes. Fights and misunderstandings are inevitable and being hurt is part and parcel of any relationship.

Now, Stoicism didn’t teach me to ignore my emotions so I could just solve the problems we had as a couple.

First of all, relationship problems need to be solved by the two parties together. They have to achieve some type of mutual compromise at some point.

Second, stoicism taught me instead to take back the power I’ve been recklessly releasing by simply acting on every emotion I had. In short, Stoicism allowed me to gain control of my emotions because, let’s face it, although I have a Rebel Tendency and resent any form of control, life is much sweeter when we take charge of ourselves and take responsibility for our own feelings.

Here, some myths that you might hold about stoicism:

Stoicism is mostly for men

Although most known Stoics are men, I don’t believe it’s an exclusive philosophy. Any gender can practice Stoicism and benefit from its philosophy.

Stoicism doesn’t necessarily teach you to think like a man. It teaches you to:

  1. make good use of your time (because it’s limited)

  2. premeditate possible worst case scenarios (so you can prepare yourself for them)

  3. strengthen your character against adversity (as most of us do when we’re faced with problems); and

  4. try to empathize with people whom you may be at odds with and give them the “benefit of the doubt” (because everyone has a different story and background).

All these points are applicable to women as they are to men. All these concepts are part of our nature as humans. I believe these concepts ARE what it means to be human.

Stoics are emotionless.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, is a widely known Stoic. In his book Meditations (which is essentially a collection of his journals), he writes about how he’s affected by all the adversity that surrounded him.

Although he might not have stated implicitly that he became emotional during certain circumstances/ events, you could just imagine what it must be like for him to lead an entire empire with people possibly opposing him, wars ongoing, and plagues attacking his family and children. On top of that, he was far away from home.

Just because he believed in strength of character doesn’t mean he wasn’t susceptible to feeling all the emotions. We are just human after all. But he stayed firm in his ground. He tried to do his best given his circumstances and I believe that’s what made him a great leader.

Stoicism is only applicable for influential people

Speaking of leaders, most Stoics are known as leaders in their fields. But Stoicism doesn’t have to be for influential people only. I believe we are the leaders of our own lives. In some way, we influence the people around us by how we lead ourselves. I would disagree that Stoicism is for leaders only. But I would argue that Stoicism causes leaders to be born because, when you remain strong in character, people can’t help but notice and follow.

In Conclusion

One big lesson from Stoicism is that (1) it strengthens your character and that (2) no one can take your character away from you. Problems come inevitably but it is up to you to decide whether you’ll be swayed by your problems or whether you’ll find the good in something.

As for me and my relationship, I figured that it was wrong to depend on my emotions so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of showing and speaking what it is you truly feel. But when you act solely based on emotion, you risk making mistakes and saying things you didn’t really mean.

We can use our emotions as a compass that (1) shows us where our thoughts and feelings are going and why they exist and (2) directs us towards the things that we truly value. But I don’t think we should use our emotions to dictate our behavior. That would be reacting instead of responding. A reaction is based on emotions and impulses, while a response is based on mindful awareness.

Photo by Elizabeth Tsung on Unsplash